3 days in Beijing

Tiananmen, Beijing

About the city

Beijing is a city in China with about 20 million inhabitants. In a city this big and with so much population the are many options for activities, for all tastes and budgets. We spent 3 days in Beijing. Being a city with so many things to do, three days are not enough to visit everything, because of the size of the city and getting to the points of interest, even though it is easy, is very time-consuming.

It is a city that compared to others in China, continues to preserve its oriental essence, both by architecture and culture. Obviously, as in any other city in the world, the presence of the great Western chains is very noticeable, nevertheless, the tradition continues to be very important there.

In this post, we will describe the itinerary of our 3 days in Beijing, experiences and tips as well as extra activities that we chose not to do due to the limited time available.

Day 1

The arrival

We arrived at the airport and the passage for passport control was quite fast since everything was well organized. The connection between terminals is made by train. In the main terminal, after getting your luggage, you can take the subway directly to the city center.

Contrary to what we thought the subway system works very well. Frequency and punctuality are impressive, and even though there are millions of people using this means of transportation daily, it is not usual to see queues to get into the carriages. The price of the subway is very cheap and a card can be purchased through a deposit of ¥ 20 that can be returned at the end against the delivery of the card.

Where we stayed

We chose a hotel from the Pentahotel chain because we had previously stayed in one in Brussels. At the time we had found that the hotel was very nice, with an unusual decor, and it was excellent value for money given that this is a 4-star hotel. On arrival, we confirmed that these hotels are indeed quirky. The “lobby” of this one was a set of glass dining rooms, with a snooker area right in the center. This is a space that invites to socializing and daily we saw groups of people having a drink or playing a game of snooker.

The hotel is located in Dongcheng which for us was very central and had excellent subway accesses (line 2 and 5) and the nearest station was Chongwenmen. As we only had 3 days in Beijing the centrality of the hotel was very important.

First gastronomic experience

After checking in we decided to embark on an adventure for lunch. Typically in countries heavily influenced by a gastronomic culture, we avoid choosing international chains. Sometimes it is difficult to choose a restaurant when we just arrived and when we are tired of a long trip but we always try to make an effort. In the streets surrounding the hotel were several restaurants of oriental food. So to choose one, we opted for the criterion of which had more local customers and we went to a restaurant where it was possible to taste different types of dumplings and soups of pasta. As we later confirmed, in Beijing almost no one speaks English and the Western presence is not very noticeable (you can come across thousands of people in one day and none of them is a Westerner). This restaurant was no exception. We chose, risking in the suggestive menus full of images and, we can not regret it because the dumplings were made at the moment and the soups had very tasty and cozy broths, all in an open kitchen concept.

As we only had the rest of the afternoon we opted to visit the Summer Palace, because it is relatively farther from the center of the city and even by subway it took about 1 hour to arrive. At the end of the visit, we went to Wangfujing to visit the market, where we ended up dining at the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, a typical roasted duck Beijing style.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace Hill, Pequim
Summer Palace, Beijing

The Summer Palace, also known as Yiheyuan which means “Garden of Cultivated Harmony”, is the largest and best preserved royal park in China. It extends over an area of 2.9 square kilometers, about 75% occupied by Kunming Lake which is totally artificial. In this space are built several palaces, gardens and other buildings of classical oriental architecture. You should take into account at least 3-4 hours for the visit.

  More information about prices and times here
  Beigongmen (Line 4)

Wangfujing

Wangfujing Market, Beijing

Wangfujing is a commercial zone with both more traditional trade and international chain stores. But the interesting part of this street is the traditional market of Chinese food. In a cross street to the main avenue there is an entrance to a street full of small food stalls. When you enter you begin to feel a mixture of aromas that leaves no one indifferent. At the entrance of this street you can see some stalls selling oriental delicacies such as: scorpions, locusts, crickets and larvae. Everything in skewers and fried. For those who are more sensitive this may not be a good experience but, for us, it was interesting to see, for the most part, Eastern people eating those snacks with satisfaction. However, we did not dare to try it. In addition to other things like waffles, fruit and sandwiches, it is possible to see some people eating huge bones with meat.

This was undoubtedly one of the times when we had a major cultural shock and it is a must stop for a visit to Beijing.

  Dengshikou (Line 5)

Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

It is a restaurant with a long culinary tradition since its opening in 1864. In Beijing, there are several restaurants of this chain and the main dish served by them is the roast duck.

This restaurant, which we visited in the Wangfujing area, is actually a building in which the various floors are full of dining rooms. It is quite noticeable that the level of luxury of this restaurant is higher than the average in Beijing. On arrival, we were greeted by a receptionist who showed us which floor we should go to. On the floor, we were greeted by the waiter who accompanied us to the table and helped us to choose what we were going to eat, and even if he did not speak much English, he did his best to understand us and to be understood. Like most restaurants in China, the menus are huge and with many options. We chose the tasting of roasted duck. In this dish, the duck is broken by the cook in front of us and served in several parts over the dinner. To accompany we ordered the traditional crepes and the typical sauce. At the end of the meal, a broth is served that is made with the rest of the duck previously served.

  Price of a whole duck with accompaniments: 288¥
  Dengshikou (Line 5)

Day 2

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of Taoist temples in Beijing. It was built in 1420 and is nowadays considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park is surrounded by a wall and is very visited by locals. You can see people doing various activities there: traditional games, dancing, tai chi, meditation and martial arts.

When visiting this place we feel a perfect harmony between nature and people, conveying a great sense of peace.

  park/through Apr-Oct¥15/35, Nov-Mar ¥10/30
Tiantan East Gate (Line 5) or Zhushikou (Line 7)

Qianmen

Qianmen Gate, Beijing

The pedestrian zone of Qianmen, also known as Zhengyangmen, is located on the central axis of Beijing (between Qianmen Tower and Tiantan Park). The buildings in that area date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, although they have been recently restored, and have shops and restaurants. It is a great place to shop and have a typical meal. It is a busy area during the day.

Qianmen (Line 2) or Zhushikou (Line 7)

Tiananmen

Tiananmen is one of the most famous squares in Beijing that stretches from Qianmen to the entrance of the Forbidden City.

In this zone you can see several communist buildings together with ancient oriental style porches, such as:

  • Great Hall of the People
  • Zhengyang Men
  • Mao’s Mausoleum
  • Monument of the People’s Heroes
  • National Museum of China
  • Tiananmen

Tiananmen is actually a porch where a photography of Mao, which is considered a national symbol and marks the entrance to the imperial city, is affixed. It was built during the Ming Dynasty. That area is where most of the Chinese government buildings are located. In that area, there is a large security perimeter that requires showing your passport and doing a baggage check.

Visiting that square is symbolic and the passage on the way to the forbidden city is made by the gates of that building.

The most convenient way to get there is by walking from Qianmen or subway.

Tiananmen  (Line 1)

Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park is in the center of Beijing and it’s a garden located along several hills of a mountain. At the top of the garden, there’s a belvedere where it is possible to have a 360º view of the city. When we entered the park there was a group of people dancing with tapes which made this visit special. The park is large and you should reserve enough time to visit it, because the path is almost always up.

  ¥10
Dongsi (Line 5/6)

Day 3

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a set of fortifications built over several centuries that together have an extension of 21 thousand kilometers. They were initially built with the aim of protecting the Chinese empire from invasions. It is estimated that the first sections were built in the 7th century BC.

With more than 27 centuries of history, apart from being one of the seven wonders of the world, it remains one of the most appealing tourist attractions in the world. In fact, we all create the idea that it is huge and imposing, but the confirmation of this only happens when we are really inside it. When we realize its immensity, it seems that everything stops for a few seconds around us and we contemplate its beauty and magnificence.

To visit the wall we decided to hire a driver in the hotel to take us so that we can make better use of our time and enjoy the visit.

Hutongs

Hutongs are a very typical street or neighborhood in the northern cities of China, such as Beijing. These streets have small typical houses. There was a time when many Hutongs were demolished to make way for the construction of modern roads and buildings. However, now they are protected sites since they are a part of Chinese culture. You can find these neighborhoods in many places of the city. We opted to visit the Hou Hai area. In this area, there is also a park with a lake (Black Lake) where it is possible to go boat riding and stroll through the streets that have shops and several bars with live music.

Extra Activities

National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)

The National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, located in the Olympic Green Village is a work of engineering and architecture that leaves no one indifferent. It is used for sporting events but also has a shopping center inside.

The outer part of the building is an interlacing of metal bars that creates the illusion of looking like a nest. At night with the lights on the stadium is indeed worth seeing.

Forbidden City

On our trip, we did not visit the forbidden city since it was closed on the day we planned. We will not fail to visit it at a next opportunity. The Forbidden City is a complex of palaces that has housed several emperors. It consists of more than 900 buildings and therefore the visit must be made with sufficient time.

Tiananmen  (Line 1)

Drum and Bell Towers

Gulou, or Beijing Drum Tower, is located at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City, north of Di’anmen Street. Originally built for musical reasons, it was later used to announce the weather and is now a tourist attraction.

A little further north is Zhonglou, or Beijing’s Bell Tower. In this tower is suspended a bell of 42 tons that can be touched by the visitors during the spring festival. They say that whoever touches it has good luck.

Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs are a set of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty of China. In Chang Ling 13 of the 16 Ming emperors are buried. It is the most relevant example of Chinese architecture of imperial tombs.


Our 3 days in Beijing were undoubtedly a very good surprise. It is a mixture of Chinese tradition and modernity. Most locals were attentive and helpful and there are many places to eat very well, both traditional food and international food. An openness to the West is becoming increasingly apparent, but it is not too obvious that the city is full of international tourism. In reality, the fact that so many people live in the city can help the Westerners go unnoticed.

Beijing provided us with the culture shock we were seeking for the people’s way of life, culture, and food. We were also surprised that the city was one of those we visited with the cleanest streets.

The city has huge points of interest and is huge which made the trip time a bit short and we will probably go back in the future to explore what we missed. But if you only have 3 days in Beijing you will not be disappointed.




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